PC gaming is dying, PC gaming is alive and well. If you're a PC gamer, you've heard both sentiments and repeatedly, like a couple of sparring dolls with interminable pull-strings. Recent punditry pegs PC gaming as an industry in decline, but the reverse is in fact true according to the PC Gaming Alliance, a group of key industry publishers doing their best to bring absent perspective to widely published but decontextualized retail sales figures.
Intel Director of Gaming Randy Stude is the PCGA's standing president. We caught up with him to clarify the PCGA's initiatives and see if we could debunk any ongoing myths.
(This is Part Four. Parts One, Two, Three, and Five.)
Game On: According to DFC Intelligence, the group that did the research for the PCGA report, the PC is predominant in emerging markets where, in DFC's words, "consoles have not had major penetration." The elephant-in-the-room implication is that PC gaming could eventually be in trouble if consoles eventually do.
Randy Stude: I think it goes further than that. I think it's more cultural. I think if you look at a market like Korea, you know, they have consoles in Korea. Why aren't consoles in Korea selling nearly as well? They're not selling remotely close to as well as PCs and PC games. That's not a closed market to consoles, that's an open market. You can buy an Xbox. I understand the resistance to Sony, and maybe even Nintendo, based on cultural issues with the Japanese and the Koreans, but why isn't the Xbox selling better there? And why aren't people flocking to consoles?
I'm not going to suggest what I believe the cultural issue is, necessarily, but I don't think that just by getting into those markets, consoles win de facto. There's also issues with governmental regulations, so consoles can't replicate the Western business models necessarily. They're sort of locked out of playing. And then there's piracy, which, in the case of China, you know...can you ever have a successful market in China when the government doesn't really have the ability to help you enforce your intellectual property rights? That's why online gaming's so huge in that market, because there's really no legitimate source for retail game sales.
GO: The report points out, quite accurately, I think, that the number one benefit of online PC gaming is piracy reduction. Whether you call it the current online model or the hypothetical cloud computing model that PC gaming maybe moves to in a decade or two, the idea's that it inherently eliminates piracy. It becomes impossible to pirate, because all of the information is architected and garrisoned on the server.
RS: That doesn't mean there aren't other issues.
GO: Well sure. Like bandwidth and connectivity, for starters.
RS: As an online player I'm sure you've seen people cheat and you've probably heard of people hacking and cracking online games. Those are issues the industry has to deal with, and fraud's another issue the industry has to deal with. So just because piracy isn't an issue doesn't mean there aren't other things that dominate the mind of the game developers and publishers for online games.